I think perhaps The Minpins was the first Roald Dahl I ever read, and that was only as recently as 2008. Young Master Wicker was in Year 2 and he had the first of many teachers who would read Roald Dahl to his class. I'd never read any Dahl in my own childhood so I took the opportunity to read them as Master Wicker had them read to him. I fell in love with The Minpins and I fell in love with Roald Dahl at the same time. He certainly is The Master. I found a second hand copy of The Minpins the other day and it seemed like an opportune moment to reread it. After all 2016 is the centenary of Dahl's birth.
The Minpins was Roald Dahl's last book, published a few months after his death. It tells the tale of Little Billy, a young boy who lives in a nice house just next to the Forest of Sin. Little Billy's mother is always checking on him, and making him do good, boring things.
Little Billy's mother was always telling him exactly what he was allowed to do and what he was not allowed to do.
All the things he was allowed to do were boring. All the things he was not allowed to do were exciting.
One day Little Billy is lured into the Forest of Sin by the devil himself. Billy goes despite his mother's warnings of the many vicious and fearful creatures that live in the wood.
Do not believe one word of what your mother says about Whangdoodles and Hornswogglers and Snozzwanglers and Vermicious Knids and the Terrible Bloodsucking Toothplucking Stonechuckling Spittler. There are no such things.
Of course there is a terrible monster living within the woods, a revolting creature who belches smoke and fire and loves nothing better than eating little children. Perfect Dahl. But there are also gentle little creatures who live in the trees out of reach of the fearsome Gruncher. They have suction boots and ride about on birds.
It is all magnificently illustrated by Patrick Benson, another thing that sets The Minpins apart from Dahl's other books- the vast majority of which are illustrated by Sir Quentin Blake of course. The Minpins is a great Dahl short story, probably not as well known as many of his other books, with a great message at its heart. I'm glad to have a copy in the house, and glad to have reread it.
And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.